They go back to Twin Peaks every year, at Christmas.
That's when the snow's so deep on the roads that even their hired SUV won't make it out there without a fight, when Audrey packs her skates because she knows the lake always freezes over by first light on Christmas morning and she looks just like a Technicolor angel out there in her woolly hat and scarf and mittens that make her look like he imagines she must have growing up there. She taught him to skate one year but he hates that he can't quite nail the technique even if he's always out there with her by the end of the trip, giddy as a schoolboy like he usually only gets at the close of a case or a really good puzzle. So, he watches her from the bench by the lakeside as he rubs his gloved hands together for warmth and he finds himself praying the ice won't break beneath her. He's agnostic; sometimes he figures hedging his bets can't hurt.
Audrey's not a religious girl – she's also really not a girl these days. She turned thirty-four this year, but in a way that often takes him right back to the day they met and those long months after, that's the way he'll always thing of her deep down. She'll always be the 18-year-old with mischief in her eyes, who thought tying cherry stems in knots and slipping into heels at school made her a woman, though he realised some years ago now that he never really knew the girl she was at all. She was fully grown by the time they met and his own overactive sense of the taboo was all that told him otherwise; he was so young then, so moral, not quite fresh from the academy but still close enough he'd sometimes felt it. He was intrepid, fearless in ways that Audrey's spirit always rose to match though little did he credit it. He thinks now he loved her from the day they met, but work did always dull his personal sensibilities.
The people there remember them. Maddy left and never came back to the place where she was always just the shadow of their murdered teenage queen, Shelly got out years ago and Bobby Briggs' father's body's buried now closer to their home than to Twin Peaks. Still, Andy and Lucy and four miniature versions of themselves wave from the windows of their station wagon as they pass and a Christmas card is always waiting at the desk of the Great Northern when they check in on Christmas Eve; from anyone other than Donna and James he supposes Laura's smiling face under a bright red velvet Santa hat would have seemed like such poor taste, but it's tradition now. They remember her at Christmas, in this place of all places.
And then, of course, there's cherry pie at the diner with the only man who could ever really be sheriff in Twin Peaks. They talk, they smile, and the coffee's the best you'll taste for a thousand miles around at any point on the compass. Harry Truman never did marry and he lives alone, but there's still that same rural fulfilment in him there always was, even after all those years of love and death and drunken minors on a Saturday night. Sometimes he thinks he envies that contentment. More than that, and curiously even more when they're sitting there on those familiar old high stools at that same old polished counter eating pie that can still make his mouth water after all these years, he misses his friend.
After the case he almost wished he could've stayed there forever but of course he went away. He slicked back his hair and tied his tie in front of the mirror every morning before work, back in DC or around the country in one of a hundred hotels he was sent to coast to coast. Nowhere struck him like that town, like those people, nowhere caught him up and captured him that way and it left a hollow spot inside somewhere that he didn't try to fill. Audrey sent him postcards from college, ones that started out life blank but ended covered in doodles through her classes, flowers and blank verse he tried to dismiss as a girl's naïveté but came to know were just part of who she was. She's that same way now, even practicing law there in DC but he's always known she loves the law for the drama of a courtroom and not for some deep-seated sense of justice. She's an actress in her element. She's persuasive to a fault. And for the past eight years she's been Dale Cooper's wife.
They take the same room every year, the room where he spent all that time, where they drank malteds and talked when he knew he should've sent her away, sent her far away, if only to appease his own uneasy conscience. It's not the same bed, of course, hasn't been for years, but that's really not what counts – the first time they made love, when he let himself push past that guilt he felt and kiss away her gaudy lipstick, tousle her perfect lawyer's coiffure, that might have been back in their nation's capital but the silence of the mountains and the chill in the air when the window wouldn't quite shut to one night, how they huddled bare beneath the blanket in each other's arms as he asked her to be his wife… Twin Peaks just keeps bringing them together.
They called their first son Harry. He died when he was three years old and Cooper always asks himself if sudden infant death syndrome really means something else completely, something darker than the pseudo-scientific name applied to demystify the unexplained, something sinister like a blonde with a child in her arms. Audrey cried for days, called him from the office in tears on and off for months and told him they were never going back there again. They did, they do, they're stronger than that even if it took a lot for them to try again. Twin girls Laura and Madeleine are five years old now and look just like their mother as they hold their parents' hands and skate on Christmas morning. Cooper pulls on their mittens and the bobble hats his own mom knit last month and wonders if he'll ever tell them who they're named for.
One day they'll retire to this place, build a home with a big roaring fire and he'll wear the terrible reindeer sweaters Audrey buys him every year just because she always like the way he looks when he's not Special Agent Cooper. There'll be lines around her eyes and grey in her hair and they'll skate on the lake with the grandkids they'll have because as much as Audrey always wanted to get away, get far away, get so far away that her hometown was just a dot on a map so small there'd be no name to it, it's always going to be a part of her just like it's now a part of him. One day they'll die there and they'll be buried side by side. He doesn't think that's morbid necessarily, just a strange kind of distant comfort.
There's a Christmas tree, a little Douglas fir they got from old Packard land that's set up in the girls' room next to theirs, all twinkling lights on red and gold baubles that help them sleep soundly though he knows they're still excited by the festive season. He'll sneak in there soon, stack presents under the tree for them to find and slip back to bed with Audrey who'll be waiting soft and warm beneath the covers with that smile that only betters with age. She'll wish him Merry Christmas and turn off the lights while he thinks about the funny way that things turn out sometimes. His whole world is measured in the moments since the death of Laura Palmer.
And when he sleeps at night, he knows the Black Lodge waits.